Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/8/2011 (3685 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
This month, the Manitoba Progressive Conservative party posted two new video advertisements on its website. Those ads, entitled Broken Promises and No Political Agenda, follow another ad, entitled Real Leadership, that was posted on the website a few weeks ago.
The ads give us a preview of key elements of the communications strategy the Tories plan to use in their effort to convince Manitobans to vote for PC candidates on Oct. 4.
They also make it clear that party leader Hugh McFadyen is going to be the focus of the Tory campaign.
In two of the three ads, McFadyen speaks for the full 30 seconds, telling the audience what he will do if elected as premier of Manitoba.
The third ad -- Broken Promises -- begins with a woman listing the failures of the Selinger government and ends with her saying that "on Oct. 4, I'm voting for vision, change and progress. I'm voting for Hugh McFadyen."
All three ads end with a graphic on a blue background that says "Vision. Change. Progress. McFADYEN 2011." The fine print at the bottom of each ad says, "This message brought to you by PC Manitoba."
The ads -- and their underlying strategy -- break so many rules of effective political campaigning it's hard to know where to start.
Manitoba Tories have not won a provincial election since 1995 and their only victories at the federal level have occurred under Stephen Harper in 2006, 2008 and this past spring.
Given those facts, it is no surprise they are sticking with an approach that puts the focus firmly on their leader. It is the only strategy that has worked for them at any level in more than a decade.
That's a problem, however.
Campaigns designed to highlight the positive attributes of Harper in the context of a federal election will not work as effectively for McFadyen during a provincial campaign. Of those Manitobans who actually know who McFadyen is, few regard him as having the attributes that have served Harper so well.
The federal Tories' strategy to make Harper the focal point of their campaigns is based upon the fact he is unquestionably his party's key asset.
It's far less certain McFadyen is the provincial Tories' top asset heading into this election campaign.
That's no slight to McFadyen. He has many positive qualities but he's no Stephen Harper -- and he doesn't have to be.
The Tories have assembled a team of quality candidates throughout the province.
Star candidates such as Gord Steeves, Susan Auch, John Vernaus and Reg Helwer are key additions to what was already a solid lineup.
By focusing their campaign strategy so intensely on McFadyen, however, the Tories have effectively reduced their other 56 candidates to mute bystanders, whose electoral fate will largely be determined by McFadyen's performance over the next six weeks. That's a huge tactical error, for at least three reasons.
First, telling average Manitobans who don't live in McFadyen's Fort Whyte riding to vote for McFadyen on election day creates confusion. Because he isn't running in their ridings, they can't vote for him.
Second, a campaign built around McFadyen allows the NDP to focus their entire effort and spending on attacks against the Tory leader. If the attacks stick, the entire campaign will suffer.
Third -- and most important -- the Tories are playing into the NDP's hands by making Selinger versus McFadyen the focal point of the election. Team Selinger is happy to fight the campaign on that terrain because their polling tells them it gives them the best chance of retaining power. It is the contest they have been setting up for more than a year.
Rather than fighting the campaign on terms most advantageous for the NDP, the Tories need to rethink and revise their strategy.
That starts with recognizing they have two key assets that pose real problems for the NDP -- a stronger, more energetic team and a strong desire for change among voters.
Rather than asking voters to decide which leader they trust to lead the province, the Tories will put themselves in the best position to win by emphasizing the strengths of their various candidates and making this the ballot-box question: "Which team do you trust to implement the change you want?"
Deveryn Ross is a writer with the Brandon Sun.